It was only a questionnaire. And yet, as I stared down at the paper, trying to answer it honestly, my mind raced.
I had forgotten what routine doctor appointments entailed with small children; my four children and I had not gone for anything but sick visits and specialty appointments in the last few months. If anything, I had been excited about this one — Amos, my youngest, had made so much progress and I was excited to report back.
But the dreaded questionnaire had slipped my mind.
Question after question, I circled no. There was no lying on these — not for this mother, who had a history of fudging on questions that reflected, to me anyways, on the level of mothering. You know the ones I mean.
How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you feed your child per week? Ummm, 6?
How much television or screen time do you allow per day? Ummm, an hour 30 minutes?
Weekly fast food? Maybe once … okay, or twice.
Yes, I (admittedly) had not always been truthful with my other three kids. Mostly in an effort to lessen the rebuking my wonderful pediatrician seemed to heap upon me with relish, as she admonished what I felt were my many failings.
But this questionnaire — this blank piece of paper I held in my hands, begging to be answered — was not a landscape picture of the kind of mother I was, good or bad. These questions, about my son Amos, were about the real developmental attributes of a typical 28-month-old. And never was it more evident that my little Amos was not typical, than as I sat answering no, over and over.
With each circled “No,” Amos’ island got bigger and bigger. So did the lump in my throat, which started to strangle me as I struggled with overwhelming emotions of sadness.
He’s made particular progress with his play skills, I thought to myself, as I made my way through the questions. Instead of wandering aimlessly like he once did, he now especially enjoys playing with his cars and trains.
Yes, he’s able to rock a baby, follow a one-step task, put items in their appropriate places, eat with a fork and push a toy.
Good. Now the tricky ones. Name pictures that I point to? Point to at least 7 body parts? Make a sentence that is 3-4 words long? Run well without falling or bumping into things typically? Jump up? Jump forward at least three inches? Stack seven blocks? String small items? Put on an item of clothing alone?
Not a “yes” in sight for any of these questions.
I hate the doctor.
Okay, that’s not really true; but that’s how I feel.
As the doctor briefly left the room, I allowed the tears to pool in my eyes. I had hardly breathed once as we went over Amos, and while, fortunately, we weren’t going to have to rehash the miserably failed questionnaire test, the questions still circled repeatedly in my mind, pulling me one step closer to a full-on breach of hysteria.
I waited and held it in.
It wasn’t the doctor’s fault, not my fault, certainly not Amos’ fault; but then why did I feel so terrible? I sat puzzled at these waves of sorrow that flooded my gut and soul and mind; and yet even now, weeks later, I am no closer at understanding.
And so, I manage.
My innate feelings as the Mama Bear of my family are insidious, and perhaps I’ll never be able to avoid the triggers that threaten the tears when it comes to my little Amos. I have never been a sensitive soul — always loving, but tough — yet these days, my sensitivity mirrors that of a feather in a windstorm.
Historically, I have always withstood heartache; but those days of natural toughness seem so very far away. Lately, I’m as malleable as homemade play dough, and I find myself unable to meet the eyes of those that love me. Perhaps it’s because I know they will give my worry away, spilling tears; and I cling to false strength as part of the armor that I hope will shield me.
But my Amos doesn’t demand armor, as he flits and floats about our small town, the world an apple for his taking, no fence gate locked too tightly — there isn’t a place he doesn’t embrace as his own. No; it’s my own limitations that are the barrier, and I strive to knock them down one question at a time.
Scanning all the circled “No’s” that day, I still had hope; I still have hope. It may be as elusive as that feather in the wind, but it’s there, nonetheless — calling to my heart and mind, guiding me when my natural self falters.